This brief guide explains what mentoring is, what you can expect from a mentoring relationship, and how you can best prepare for meeting with a mentor. It won’t answer all your questions, but I hope it gives you enough of a flavour of Christian mentoring for you to want to give it a go. When you’ve read it through, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to speak to me (Edwin Frazer) who will be happy to talk through any questions you might have?
What is mentoring?
Christian mentoring is an intentional relationship of trust in which one person (the mentor) enables another person (the mentoree) to maximise the grace of God within their lives and develop their potential in the service of God’s kingdom purposes.
The keys to understanding such a relationship are:
- Intentional. It has a clear purpose and direction, normally a range of agreed expectations. This is more than a ‘chat’ between friends. You as the mentoree are looking to get something from this relationship.
- Relationship of trust. Mutual trust is a vital component of the mentoring relationship. It develops over time, especially if there has been no previous connection between mentor and mentoree. From the outset it helps if there is a mutual respect, an element of connection.
- The mentor. As a general rule the mentor is older and more experienced than the mentoree, farther along the same path, able to offer perspective and wisdom for the journey. The mentor is warm and willing to share personal stories, to be vulnerable and admit mistakes, struggles and failure. The relationship maintains a clear focus on the mentoree. It is for their benefit, not the mentor’s.
- Enables. The mentor seeks to enable the mentoree to grow and develop.
- To maximise the grace of God. Both the Bible and personal experience make clear that God’s grace is foundational for all growth. Deep, lasting and ongoing change occurs as people receive God’s amazing grace and out of gratitude respond to its transformative work in their lives.
- Develop their potential. Mentoring doesn’t try to steer people in a direction that is unsuited to who God has made them to be. Indeed, it is poor practice for a mentor to try to shape the mentoree in his or her likeness. Good mentoring helps the mentoree discern more clearly how God has wired them up’ (talents, spiritual gifts, temperament and passions). It will increase their awareness of the gaps in skills and knowledge that might need filling, and the character issues that might need addressing (truthfulness, faithfulness, honesty, patience, and so on).
- In the service of God’s kingdom purposes. This phrase reminds us of an inherent danger in mentoring: the mentoree becomes self-absorbed, rather than self-aware. Self-awareness enables an individual to see things that need addressing in order for them to become more fully the human being God wants them to be, more able to relate to people in a mature and selfless way, more competent in fulfilling the role God has given them in life. Self-absorbed people are self-oriented rather than kingdom-oriented, self-centred rather than other-centred.
So, it is more than friendship, but not counselling or therapy. It is relaxed and yet intentional. It is about the mentoree, but involves the mentor sharing from their experience.